Friday, May 21, 2010

Queering the Image 6: Sailors and Cones by Albert W. Hampson



In 3 other posts I have examined to one degree or another the visual representation of the sailor in terms of the unique and ambiguous position he occupies in terms of his supposed fluid gender and sexuality.  Throughout history there has always existed the fantasy about men cramped aboard the homosocial space of the ship, far from land and women who express and satisfy their sexual needs and desires with one another.  This fantasy was at times a reality.  The combination of fact and fiction also positioned the sailor as a paradigmatic object of same-sex desire.  And in actuality, for example, sailors in the early 20th century in the United States often worked as prostitutes for homosexual clients in order to supplement their dismal income.

07-07-2009 01;23;26PM

This desire for the sailor was further heightened and embedded in his uniform- the tight crotch of his bell bottom pants set against the feminine softness of his middy blouse.  The uniform simultaneously signified his masculinity and sexual appeal, but also his approachability and willingness to engage  in same-sex  sailorboy4 behavior.  Sailor suits were not just worn by men in the navy; it was a ubiquitous fashion for young children and women.  This curious manifestation of the uniform as fashion relates not only to the ambiguity of the sailor in terms of his gender and sexuality, but the duality of the actual uniform itself-  crotch hugging pants displaying his manhood and a blouse top with feminine connotations.  It is as if the historical position of the sailor allowed within culture the use of his uniform as everyday garments for women and children.  Adult men did not dress in sailor outfits.

In 1937  Albert W. Hampson painted Sailors and Cones. an illustration for a Saturday Evening Post cover.  At first glance this image seems innocent and innocuous, but it is also hotly brimming with strong sexual desire and homoeroticism despite the coldness of the ice cream cones depicted. 

sailorsicecream In the illustration a Shore Patrol sailor stands on the left of the image with his hands on his hips.  He looks to his left with a disapproving stare at the 2 sailors walking by him in lock step, each eating an ice cream cone.  The near sailor is licking his vanilla cone and the sailor next to him his about to lick or has just licked his strawberry cone.

What exactly is the narrative of this picture?  Why does the Shore Patrol sailor look with disapproval at his fellow sailors with ice cream cones?  Does he want a cone himself?  Is he angry about being on duty while his off duty comrades are taking a leisurely stroll and enjoying their shore leave?  Or is he dismayed by the intimacy of the 2 sailors with cones?  Does he sense a camaraderie that goes beyond friendship to sexual interaction and desire?

The composition of the 2 walking sailors underlies this suggestion of (sexual) intimacy.  They are near mirror images of one another with only subtle differences to distinguish them- their facial features, the placement of their sailor hats and their different choices in ice cream flavors.  But these differences are minute and overshadowed by the doubling link of the 2 figures.  This doubling attachs them visually and psychologically and intimates a degree of sexual connection as well between the pair as the myth and the reality of the sailor often asserts.

Moreover, the third arm visible in the composition of the 2 sailors emphasizes this connection.  The arm seems to be awkwardly placed and it is unclear to whom it belongs.  Whomever owns this limb, its placement behind the sailors indicates an extreme physical closeness between the 2 figures.  If it belongs to the sailor with the strawberry cone, it suggests perhaps that the this sailor had his arm around his companion just a moment before we the viewer come upon the scene.  The arm is in the end ambiguous like the nature of the soldier of the sea.

sailorsicecream The act of eating the ice cream is the narrative bond between the 2 strolling sailors and their difference from the Shore Patrol sailor.  The ice cream cone held by each figure is a metaphoric displacement for the penis;  the sailors are involved in the act of “69”- eating, licking, sucking the symbolic cockcone.  Their eyes are closed as if in the midst of a sexual reverie and enjoyment rather than simply enjoying an ice cream.

The Shore Patrol sailor has a metaphoric penis (or perhaps it is the Phallus, the Law) as well- his truncheon.  It is bigger than the ice cream cones.  Maybe his look of anger is really one of jealousy.  No one is licking his club.

In the end, this illustration by Hampson is quite provocative for its time and its appearance in the Saturday Evening Post.  Sailors on shore leave with ice cream cones becomes an image of same-sex desire and imagined mutual fellatio.  The law of the dominant fiction is present- the Shore Patrol sailor, but he seems impotent, unable to act against this transgression of the Law.  His truncheon remains in its holster untouched, unloved,  not caressed.

The picture plays on the myth and the fact of the sailor’s fluid sexual position.  It counts on the viewer being in the “know’ about what potentially occurs between men packed tight aboard ship.  Yet, this ice cream cone liaison happens on shore and in that way it disturbs and challenges the dominant fiction.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Introducing The Antique Flâneur

P1000318 Art Deco German Figurine

Flâneur- a term used by the French 19th century poet and critic Charles Baudelaire to mean a person who walks the city in order to experience it.

For several years now, I have been finding antique and vintage items for clients and designers in my capacity as an Associate Floral Designer for Jo's Blooms, a custom floral design company.  I am now turning this enjoyable activity into a full-fledged business, The Antique FlâneurStrolling through the city, the country and cyberspace to find your antique and vintage collectibles. 

I invite you to visit my website  The Antique Flâneur which details the 4 services that I offer for both private clients and interior designers: 

1.  Finding antique and vintage accessories in porcelain, pottery, silver and so on from colonial to modern to adorn your home or for a special gift for a wedding, anniversary or birthday.

2.  Researching antiques and vintage collectibles that you already own in terms of maker, style, date and relative value.

If you are in the New York City/New Jersey area:

3.  Arranging your accessories from a whole house, an entire room to just a cluttered china cabinet for maximum effect or hanging pictures in a beautiful and eye catching grouping.

4.  Accompanying you on an antique buying trip to antique shops, antique shows and auctions in order to assist you in choosing the right piece of furniture, china service or any antique or vintage decorative accessory to embellish your home.

Aesthetic Transferware Tureen circa 1880

Please join the mailing list and be on the lookout for special offers and updates.  If you are an interior designer, I hope to help you find unique items for your clients.  If you are an antique dealer, I would like to work with you in the near future as I look for vintage and antique objects for clients. 

If you are looking for a particular item now, email me from the Contact Me page at  Mention The Great Within and receive a 10% discount on any one service I offer.

Many thanks and I look forward to helping you find a treasure in the future!

Kelly T Keating


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Against the Current: The Pirate, The Toy Soldier and The College Freshman

I was a lonely boy, no strength, no joy
In a world of my own at the back of the garden
I didn't want to compete, or play out on the street
For in a secret life I was a round head general-
Left to My Own Devices, The Pet Shop Boys, 1988

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

It is sometimes hard for me to live in the present.  Memories, both good and bad, suddenly decamp in the front of my head and crash into my present consciousness for apparently no reason.  It is unnerving.  At times there is a trigger- an old photograph, the sound of a song, the smell of a certain food, but often not.  The memory is always sharp and vivid, but simultaneously it is hard to trust.  Am I embellishing it, making it worse or better?  Has years of therapy refashioned it into something different- a cause, a symptom, a displacement, a sublimation?  As Susan Sontag might say  I long for an erotics of memory, free of interpretation and reason.  But, I guess as long as we are all castrated by language that is simply not possible except maybe in dreams and maybe not even then.

The Pirate

Pyle_pirate_captain Illustration from Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates

Coming across town on the M23 bus on my way home the other day I suddenly remember my first Halloween in New Jersey in me74 1975. That previous summer my  family had moved from Brooklyn from a gang of block kids of all ages, playing stickball, kick the can, hide-n-seek to a New Jersey suburb with no sidewalks and 2 Waspy, preppy kids on my street who both went to a different school.  There was no such thing as preppy in Flatbush.

My transition was not an easy one and that Halloween of 1975 I was alone without trick or treating companions.  With nowhere to go, I still dressed up in costume as a pirate- eye patch, bandana, blue and white striped shirt, maybe a short sword; it’s a bit hazy, but I was definitely a pirate although not quite a swashbuckler.

When we moved to New Jersey my new room was decorated with a sailing ship theme which made more sense for my young queer self than my room in Brooklyn with its red, white and blue sports themed wallpaper.  In my suburban bedroom where you could hear crickets at night, there was a feature wall covered with wallpaper in a blue background with outlines of maps and overlaid with images of ships, anchors, sextants and so on.  The other walls (and here is the design genius of my mother) were covered in dark, faux wood paneling wallpaper hung horizontally like the planks of a ship.  The decor of this room was eerily prophetic.  Even at the age of 8, I was ensconced in my own metaphoric ship, a vessel alone amidst the vastness of the ocean, a pirate without a crew for trick or treating or finding buried treasure.

I am not sad anymore for that little boy who was all dressed up with nowhere to go except to his grandparent’s house.  I don’t remember them being impressed as I stood in the kitchen feeling foolish.  This memory has been digested, unpacked and understood, yet the prophecy of the ship room is still disquieting.  And years later, when I read these lines by Roland Barthes about Jules Verne’s Nautilus it all made haunting sense now as then:

[A]ll the ships in Jules Verne are perfect cubby-holes, and the vastness of their circumnavigation further increases the bliss of their closure, the perfection of their inner humanity. The Nautilus, in this regard, is the most desirable of all caves: the enjoyment of being enclosed reaches its paroxysm when, from the bosom of this unbroken inwardness, it is possible to watch, through a large window-pane, the outside vagueness of the waters, and thus define in a single act, the inside by means of its opposite- Roland Barthes, Mythologies

The Toy Soldier


There are other memories that when they emerge make me a bit sad, wistful- a brief watering of the eyes and then it is done.  When I was 9 or maybe 10, I went with my biological father to visit my grandparents as I often did because if I was withmegrandk them he would not have to interact with me by himself.  And thankfully my grandmother was a loving woman in her own way who made the simplest tasks hysterically funny and eased my discomfort over her son. 

Now to explain the differences between my parents and my biological father is not my intent here.  Succinctly, I have a wonderful mother and father and I also have a biological father (once married to my mother) who was unreliable, emotionally distant and often absent throughout my life.

That weekend at my grandparents my biological father decided to go through his childhood toys which my grandparents had painstakingly preserved as if they realized that their son had not grown up to be a very nice adult.  Perhaps they wanted to hold onto the image of his younger self through these childhood objects. 

At first I thought my biological father was nostalgic about these toys.  As a kid growing up in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, my he had amassed a vast collection of exceptional lead toy soldiers from England mostly knights- standing as well as on horseback and equipped with a myriad of weapons.  And perhaps relating to Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation, he had a huge cavalcade of British soldiers in red coats with tall bearskin hats and soldiers on horseback wearing silver helmets with white plumes and gleaming armored breast plates.

He lined up all of these figures on the living room rug and the unsaid implication was that I could look, but not touch.  At 9 or 10 I coveted those soldiers, but knowingly did not expect my biological father to give them to me.  Instead, I received the grey plastic knights with black and white armored plastic steeds which were also in the box.  My biological father took the lead soldiers not for his pleasure or nostalgia, but to sell them for cash.

When my grandmother died a few years later, my biological father found her lambs wool jacket, a type popular in the 1950’s.  Again seeing money rather than memory or love or meaning, he took it to the Ritz Thrift Shop where they sold second hand furs.  They gave him $15 for it which I assume is less than he expected.  Typically, he used the money to take a cab home to the Upper Westside.  He told me this story without hesitation as if it was an amusing anecdote.

The College Freshman

me18In the fall of 1985 I entered Trinity College in Hartford, CT.  Trinity’s campus is idyllic (or it was at that time); it resembles a storybook college with its neo-Gothic architecture, sprawling green lawns and large old trees.  It was also at that time fairly conservative, “preppy” to use that antiquated term and small- anonymity was never an easy subject position there.

For some reason it never occurred to me that my queer 18 year old self might not exactly socially fit into this bucolic setting of ideal learning.  But then as now, I am always passionate about accumulating knowledge (folly though it may be) and I was excited to enter a place where learning was more rigorous, more specialized, more complex and more valued.


On a social level, I naively assumed  (and why I still don’t know) that when one went to college. one naturally fell in love.  In my head at the time it was as if this very amorphous thing, love, just

happened.  It would somehow find me at college despite the actuality of the school.

I can still remember that day in chem lab and watch it like a video clip in my head when _____ came up to me and asked if I wanted to go to dinner at the dining hall.  Things went black or white or something.  Unfortunately, the story never had much of a middle or an end despite its fantastical beginning, but it did have a New Order soundtrack.  Mostly what followed was misunderstanding, frustration, disappointment, miscommunication and immaturity.

When this memory surfaces now, usually brought on by a (New Order) song (Why do teenagers always seek answers and solace in music?), I think of it as an amour fou like Breton’s Nadja.  “…beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all…”  I wasted time

and energy in that moment of my life.  But there is still a small part of me buried deep that wishes it would have all gone differently and that those visions of white Adidas sneakers would have continued to dance in my head…


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Silver Desire: A German Silverplate Trio


On the days when I am Mary Poppins for my goddaughter, we often take a stroll through the neighborhood after lunch and a visit to the playground.  As we roll down city streets I imagine I am the Flâneur and she is the Petite Flâneuse out for an urban jaunt.  On our almost daily sojourns we invariably stop into a few local thrift shops.  The thrift shops in this part of town are particularly good.  There is a Housing Works Thrift Shop, The City Opera Thrift Shop and Vintage Thrift on 3rd Avenue near East 23rd Street.

One day while perusing the wares in Vintage Thrift, I spotted  a petite sugar and creamer with its own matching under tray behind the counter.  Now, behind the counter can mean prohibitively expensive or just overpriced.  But this establishment seems to really know its merchandise and prices it accordingly.  The silver items on the floor are usually bog standard plate, nothing special with a thick layer of black tarnish.  This sugar and creamer trio on the shelf behind the jewelry vitrine, however, was something different and perhaps a thrift store treasure.

I asked to look at the trio.  All 3 pieces were hallmarked with what looked like a finial or chess piece inside a circle inside a square.  Below this mark was the number 39 or 89.  As I did not have my jeweler's loop, it P1010182 was hard to discern exactly.  If the number was 89, there was a chance that the trio was a lower grade of silver- 89% by weight of silver to 11%  other metals usually copper instead of 92.5% by weight of silver to 7.5% of copper which is the standard for sterling.  Or 89 0r 39 could simply refer to the pattern number of the sugar, creamer and tray and then the trio would certainly be silverplate.  But silverplate from where?  And made by whom?

That night when I returned home, I did some research online.  I looked at Russian silver hallmarks which sometimes uses an 89 to indicate the purity of silver.  I sifted through silverplate marks as well, but nothing turned up that resembled the marks on the thrift shop piece.

Although the maker and the date of manufacture were still unknown to me, I returned to the thrift shop a few days later with my loop.  The mark was indeed a finial shape but with the loop I now saw 2 faint facing “B”s on either side of the shape and the number below it was indeed 39.  The sugar, creamer and tray were, therefore, definitely silverplate by a “B” manufacturer.  I decided to take a chance and buy the item; it was in extremely good condition and was marked a fair price.

The sugar, creamer and tray are exquisitely petite.  The tray measures a mere 7x4.75 inches and the sugar and creamer are only approximately 2.75” in diameter.  The interior of both pieces have an elegant gold wash.  All the items in the trio have a lovely undulating edge that looks like a swirling silver ribbon.P1010175  The handle of the creamer is constructed of 2 pieces of metal that resemble the cut tendrils of a vine.  Its elegant curve echoes and complements the rippling profile of the creamer’s  P1010175 circumference.

Besides the edge detail all 3 pieces of the set have a nicely detailed chased decoration that in its wavy lines complements the swirling profiles of the trio.  This chased embellishment resembles waves as they crash on the shoreline and then recede creating a bubbling foam.  Or it evokes a stylized shell.  Either way there is the suggestion of water and the sea. This decoration seems almost late Aesthetic or proto-Art Nouveau in its curving forms and lines as well as its references to nature.


With some further research I discovered that the trio is German silverplate made by the B Bohrmann Factory in Frankfurt-am-Main.  The mark of the finial and the 2 “B”s seems to indicate a date from 1871 when the factory was founded along with the German Empire after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War to 1894 when the mark appears to have changed to a complete spelling of the name “Bohrmann” rather than merely initials.  My guess is that the piece is on the latter side of that range, 1890 or so with its Aesthetic and almost Art Nouveau form and styling.

The material trio along with its age and provenance pleased me a great deal.  My chance was a success.  I marveled as I always do with antiques how this piece survived the last 100+ years without significant damage or merely that it was not just thrown away.  I wondered too how a 19th century German object arrived in this country and ended the first part of its journey in a thrift shop on 3rd Avenue in New York City.  Perhaps a turn of the century German immigrant brought it with them on the Atlantic crossing to a new life in the United States.  Or perhaps a shop uptown in Yorkville imported German manufactured items for the local immigrant community;  German immigrants began to move from downtown to upper eastside in the early 20th century.  Like all antiques this diminutive sugar and creamer with its under tray will never divulge its secrets and that is part of its allure.

Braunfels_SchlossSchloss Braunfels 

Being manufactured in Frankfurt-am-Main specifically reminds me of the German side of my family.   My grandmother Hedwig Louise Bier grew up in a spa town named Braunfels not that far from Frankfurt until 1922.  At the age of 13 she came to the United States.  Perhaps the Biers owned some Bohrmann silverplate to grace the table in their house just below the castle.  In my imagination the trio is a connection to the grandmother I never knew and I will think of her when I use it.

bierchildrenMy grandmother Hedwig in the center, Margareta on the right whom I always called just Aunt and Hans on the right the black sheep in Germany

hedwigglam My grandmother Hedwig, beautiful and glamorous, circa 1930

In a few years my goddaughter and I will use this sugar and creamer at a tête-à-tête tea party.  No longer an item cast aside and abandoned in a thrift shop this silverplate trio will continue to exist in my collection and reflect old dreams, new memories and new faces in its gleaming surface.


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Great Within Design Contest


P1000646Plasterwork detail at base of grand staircase, Mompesson House, Salisbury

The beautiful 18th century embellished plasterwork of Mompesson House in Salisbury, England has inspired me to launch a design contest for The Great Within.  Take a look at the post on Mompesson House and its ornamental plasterwork for ideas and inspiration for your own design proposal that uses decorative plasterwork.  Then enter the contest and maybe win a prize!

I.  Contest

Using the 18th century decorative plasterwork at Mompesson House as a source of inspiration and a point of departure, how would you employ decorative plasterwork as a design element in a residential or commercial room today?  In Mompesson House the plasterwork is full of classical references.  What would be the content of your plasterwork?  How would that content speak to and reflect today’s clients?  In which room of a private house or a commercial setting would  plasterwork be used?  What areas of that room would feature decorative plasterwork- the ceiling, the walls, the mantelpiece etc.?

P1000632 Plasterwork detail in The Staircase Hall, Mompesson House, Salisbury

Come up with a design scheme in any style you wish, modern, traditional and so on, for a room in a private home or a commercial space that employs decorative plasterwork as a featured element.  Submit an image of a  photograph, drawing, painting, watercolor or even a collage along with a written description of your design scheme that conveys your inspiration and ideas.

Submissions should be emailed to by Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

II. Prizes

The Winner will be chosen by myself and my dear friend Deirdre who is an artist with a keen, modern design sense.  The Chosen Winner will receive a genuine English solid silver 5.25” coffee spoon hallmarked Birmingham 1909 by Elkington and Co.  and weighing over 1 ounce.  This spoon with its shell motif is reminiscent of some of the plaster designs at Mompesson House. 




Readers of The Great Within will also select a Reader’s Choice Winner by casting their vote on the blog.  The winner of the Reader’s Choice will receive a pair of 6” silverplate teaspoons by Tiffany in their pattern Whittier which was introduced in 1907.




III.  Final Details

All entries will be posted on The Great Within on Friday, June 4, 2010 in order to allow voting for the Reader’s Choice Winner.  Voting for the Reader’s Choice Winner will end at midnight Friday, June 11, 2010.  Both the Reader’s Choice Winner and The Winner selected by myself and Deirdre will be featured in their own individual post on The Great Within with reactions and comments from myself, Deirdre and other readers.

The Winner and The Reader’s Choice Winner will be announced on Saturday June 12, 2010.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at

I look forward to seeing all the unique proposals!

Cheers, Kelly

P1000622 Dining room ceiling, Mompesson House, Salisbury

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Cabinet of Immortal Desire


There are many pleasures in collecting:  learning about the objects you collect in terms of style, history, function and maker, searching for pieces in antique shops, flea markets, thrift shops and online, using your collected items like a spoon or fork when they have a practical function and of course displaying your collection for yourself and others to enjoy and covet on a daily basis.  Since I moved into my apartment over 5 years ago, I have been looking for a small curio cabinet in which to exhibit my silver collection.  Recently, I found a vintage English walnut veneered vitrine probably 1920’s-30’s in of all places Long Valley, New Jersey.  It is the perfect size for its location on a short wall in the hallway to the bathroom.  Its placement there, however, allows it to be visible from the dining area and what I like to term in my grandiose head, the drawing room. 


The cabinet’s lovely demilune  shape sitting daintily on 3 cabriole legs along with its glass door and sides, mirrored back and glass shelves give this piece of furniture a degree of lightness.  A cabinet with an opaque back and wooden shelves would definitely not have produced this effect.  The impression of weightlessness is further enhanced by the gleaming silver within the vitrine. The silver objects are  doubled in the mirror and each piece and its doppelganger radiate light and numerous reflections.  The cabinet and its contents produces a hallucination of silver that seemingly floats before the viewer.



My hallucinatory cabinet is filled with some of my most loved objects, for exampleP1000394 a Sheffield plate 8.25” salver on 3 claw and ball feet by Robert Gainsford and dated 1808-1828.  It is the oldest piece of silver that I own.  I often imagine it being used to present the gentleman of a (grand) house with a letter or a glass of sherry.  As I have discussed here and here my love of collecting silver goes beyond the mere value of the Gainsford salver for instance, but towards the past which is inscribed on it- the traces of use and handling that imbue it not only with physical markings, but the aura and presence of all those individuals who used this small tray before it came into my possession.

P1010307 This aura of the object is heightened for me when a piece of silver is engraved with a monogram as on a late 19th century reticulated 6” bon bon dish with a elaborately scrolled edge by Wallace.  Of course, I can never really know the identity of EAFS whose initials are sumptuously engraved in a series of swirls P1010309 on the bottom of the dish.  Was the bon bon dish given as a present with the engraving already done or did the buyer/owner of the dish monogrammed for their own pleasure and pride?  It will always be a mystery, but one that need not be solved for the mere fact of the monogram gives me great satisfaction.

But what does all this stuff mean?  (Sometimes it all frightens me.)  Why do I collect it?  Why do I feel the need to possess it?  In part is a connection to the past as I have described, but it is also a link to the future.  I will put my mark on these silver forks, spoons, knives, coffeepots, sugars, creamers, salvers, spooners and so on as others did before me.  At the end of my life they will hopefully continue to exist and endure.  I will have imbued them with my desire as well as the material traces of my use.  This silver is a perverse claim for immortality just like this blog and this post will exist, somehow, somewhere, in some form forever.

A recent post entitled “Stuff & Junk” on one of my new favorite blogs, from the desk of Mr. Knappy-Head rants and reflections of a middle-aged homosexual, (me too!) reaches a similar conclusion regarding objects and immortality.  In this lovely and poignant post, Mr. Knappy-Head begins with a description of a homeless woman whom he has often seen along 10th Avenue in New York City.  He writes:

The volume of her possessions seemed to wax and wane over time, but the way she managed them was as consistent as it was elaborate. Typically, she’d have found a couple of those two-wheel carts people use for laundry or groceries and stuffed them with things hidden inside big, black trash bags. In addition, she’d have other containers and means of transport — a grocery cart or several cardboard boxes — and filled them with more bulging black trash bags…I wondered what she kept in those bags. I wondered, too, if she ever took the time (or even had the interest) to look at their contents. I could imagine that, for her, it was less about the specifics of these belongings and more — or even entirely — about the fact that they were hers. In a world of people with things, a world of possessions and ownership, a world in which our peers judge us as much by what we own and wear as by any other measure, it could be most important for her simply to have things she could call her own.

I too have seen this homeless woman a few times walking along 10th Avenue and speculated what things existed in all those black plastic bags. But what Mr. Knappy-Head does smartly is to connect this woman to the rest of us and our need for stuff.  He humanizes her in a way I ashamedly never did and this fact strikes me profoundly.  This unknown woman and I do indeed have something in common- a humanity and a need for possessions as a source of comfort and solace.

Mr. Knappy-Head argues further that our need for stuff is not just merely a symptom of consumer capitalism and its relentless and nefarious dialogue.  It whispers to us, “You are not good enough.  You are ugly.  If you buy product x you will be good enough, you will be beautiful, but only for an instant and then you have to buy product y, then z and so on into infinity.”

This insidious capitalist murmuring, however, does not fully explain or contend with why people search out vintage and antique items.  Consumer culture is always interested in the new.  It easily discards things from one moment to the next.  Something is broken.  Don’t fix it, buy a new one, a better one, be beautiful.  But as sites like eBay demonstrate, a nostalgic interest in past objects is a viable and profitable sector of our consumer culture (so in the end “old” things are co-opted into the system) and simultaneously provides a need and a desire that many of us share and which we do not find in new objects.

As Mr. Knappy-Head rightly concludes:

the comfort I find in things grows more pronounced the older I get and the more I feel my grip loosening on the brightly lit world of the material and on a future that used to stretch out endlessly before me. When I was much younger, I didn’t seem to put much value on many objects. My favorite book or album was only important because of what it contained, not just as an object in itself…does the hazy vision of my own mortality off in the distance prompt me to latch onto books and CDs and vintage Christmas ornaments in much the same way that she drags around all those bags, as if that solid connection to the world of things will lend me a little bit of credibility, if not immortality?

Mr. Knappy-Head, the unknown woman of 1oth Avenue and I are in agreement about a need for immortality through objects, although our coveting of this fleeting and ultimately unattainable sensation is expressed through different stuff. Perhaps there are those individuals who might call me and Mr. Knappy-Head materialistic, too involved with our stuff or indeed foolish for investing such depth of feeling into objects rather than people.  (And what does this fact mean for the unknown woman on 10th Avenue and others like her?)

But life is ultimately about loss- loss of loved ones, loss of youth, loss of time, loss of memories and if my collection of silver gives me solace in face of these unavoidable horrors, provides me with a sense of a past larger than my own and connects me to all those souls who once owned what I now possess then all the better.  My new curio cabinet filled with silver is more than just a collection of antique and vintage objects.  More than and in the end just stuff, it is a vessel of immortal desire.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In Search of a Hot Monster Part II: The Boys of New York

Boris_Karloff_as_The_Monster_in_Bride_of_Frankenstein_film_trailer One of the original Hot Monsters- Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

In my post In Search of  a Hot Monster*:  The Boys of London I discussed the results of an experiment I conducted during my recent visit to the United Kingdom to determine how many lads of London were hot.  While there I counted 68 hot monsters over a 12 day period.  In order to see whether London indeed has the hotter monsters I then performed a similar experiment here in New York City from 18 April to 29 April 2010.  During this follow-up experiment I found only 58 hot monsters in the city.  Thus, the winner is London by 10 hot monsters, a statistically significant number or something like that.  Congratulations Blokes of London!!!

If you disagree with these findings and have your own data, please share.  I would also note that the boys of London were not only hotter, but had a definite edge in sartorial display over the men of New York City.  Of course, if my entire experiment was conducted only in the East Village, that conclusion might have been different.

Here is a breakdown of the New York City Hot Monster Data:

I.  A graph of the number of hot monster findings by day.  What this graph ultimately tells us, I don’t know.


II.  A map showing the locations of memorable hot monsters seen in New York City.  Each significant sighting is indicated by a red number from 18-29.  The number corresponds to the day in April of the actual sighting.  What this map ultimately tells us, I don’t know.


III.  The sightings are broken down according to the number of hot monsters seen along with my activities and locations within the city on each particular day.  Notable sightings are also detailed.

Sunday 18 April 2010…Total: 6


Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, Penn Station

I saw 2 burning hot monsters on 8th Avenue between West 28th and West 29th Streets.  Their appeal was heightened by the fact that they were holding hands.  In my mind I imagined them as Broadway dancers who had been flirting with each other since rehearsals and then the night before I saw them they had a magical date and consummated their relationship.  On this Sunday, they were on their way to perform a matinee, strolling up 8th Avenue hand in hand.

Monday 19 April 2010…Total:  7


Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, Penn Station, Midtown, E train

The last hot monster I saw today was on 1oth Avenue and West 23rd Street.  He was wearing gym shorts and was obviously out for a jog.  He was older with incongruous long, boyish hair streaked with grey, but it worked.  His best feature, however, were his amazing calves- a body part which always sparks my interest.

Tuesday 20 April 2010…Total:  5

Boris_Karloff_The_Mummy Boris Karloff in The Mummy

Activities and Locations: Chelsea. Gristede’s Supermarket 9th Avenue at West 24th Street, Penn Station

At Penn Station there was a boy who looked a bit like Channing Tatum with a suedehead haircut which I always find enthralling.  But of course the boy has to have a nicely shaped head or it all goes wrong.

Wednesday 21 April 2010…Total:  5


Activities and Locations:  M23 Bus, Stuyvesant Town, Gristede’s Supermarket 1st Avenue and East 20th Street, Starbucks 1st Avenue at 16th Street

2 significant sightings today.  The first was a hot dad in one of the Stuyvesant Town playgrounds who was wearing rumpled grey jeans and a slightly darker grey wrinkled button long sleeve shirt.  He was a bit of a hipster with his wallet chain and the grey Converse slip-on no lace All Stars.  I have the same grey All Stars, so obviously our destinies are intertwined and we will meet in the near future.

The second memorable hot monster was an older grey haired guy in Starbucks with a prominent nose.  An arresting proboscis can be strikingly handsome when part of the right facial configuration.  He reminded me a bit of Anderson Cooper, but better looking and definitely sexier.  Cooper always strikes me as a bit pasty both physically and in demeanor.

Thursday 22 April 2010…Total: 5

Stuyvesant_Town_in_New_York_City Courtesy of D. Shankbone

Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, Stuyvesant Town, City Opera Thrift Shop East 23rd Street between 2nd/3rd Avenues, Starbucks 1st Avenue and East 16th Street, Gristede’s Supermarket 9th Avenue and West 24th Street

One significant hot monster was seen today- a hipster crossing 3rd Avenue wearing skinny grey jeans tucked into brown lace-up boots, a white T and a black cardigan.

Friday 23 April 2010…Total:  9

Mummy1932 The Mummy 1932

Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, Flower Market on West 28th Street,  Naturally Tasty Restaurant 5th Avenue and West 27th Street, Stuyvesant Town, Starbucks 1st Avenue and East 16th Street, East Village

This day had the highest number of sightings, 9, of the entire experiment in New York City.  This date’s memorable sighting occurred at Naturally Tasty, a diner on lower 5th Avenue.  No pun intended.  I dubbed this mid-40’s gentleman endearingly, Pinocchio because of his extremely prominent nose.  Like the guy in Starbucks from a few days earlier, a large mountainous nose on the right facial landscape is most handsome.  This hot monster wore a randomly logoed red T, jeans and boots.  He had lovely, wavy dark hair with grey and was alluringly chewing gum with his mouth open.  Naturally tasty indeed.

Saturday 24 April 2010…Total:  3

Foto_Bela_Lugosi The original Hot Monster- Bela Lugosi

Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, Gristede’s Supermarket 9th Avenue and West 24th Street

Only 3 hot monsters were observed today.  The memorable sighting was a short, beefy guy in a black T and shorts with perfectly coiffed hair.  He had a bit of a meathead look which can be appealing from time to time.

Sunday 25 April 2010…Total: 5

justinbondandme Superstar Justin Bond, A Total Hot Monster, and me…

Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, Joe’s Pub, East Village

On this Sunday I went to see the incomparable Justin Bond at Joe’s Pub.  All 5 sightings occurred there.  The cutest of the 5 was a bear with the perfect hair/beard combination.  The length and styling were spot on and quite attractive and enhanced his sweet face with deep blue eyes and fireplug body.

Monday 26 April 2010…Total:  5

JacklynSmithJune06 Courtesy m j c

Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, M23 Bus, Stuyvesant Town, Trader Joe’s in Union Square, F Train, E Train, East Village, Starbucks 1st Avenue and East 16th Street

There were 2 significant sightings on this day.  The first on East 14th Street was a hot monster hipster wearing skinny grey jeans tucked into leather basketball sneakers, a white T and a lavender leather? jacket.  All of this sartorial perfection was set off by a the boy’s baseball cap which he wore at a jaunty and rakish angle.  This hot monster was certainly a hot mess.

The second notable sighting of the day was at Starbucks on 1st Avenue.  A boy with his laptop and wearing ear phones sported the most perfectly tussled dark brown hair.  His hair obviously came that way, no fussing, no product, just genetically coiffed sexy hair.  Jaclyn Smith would be jealous.

Tuesday 27 April 2010…Total:  1


Activities and Locations:  Penn Station, Chelsea

Slim pickin’s today.  The only hot monster observed was a cute bear with beard and sunglasses on West 23rd Street and 10th Avenue.  He was rockin’ the dumpy sexy look like the young, hot John Goodman.

Wednesday 28 April 2010…Total:  5

phantomopera Lon Chaney Sr. as The Phantom of the Opera:  Hot Monster or Hot Mess?

Activities and Locations:  Chelsea, M23 Bus, Stuyvesant Town, L Train, F Train, Vintage Thrift Shop 3rd Avenue and East 22nd Street

Emerging from the Vintage Thrift Shop on 3rd Avenue was a hot monster clearly living the dream.  He wore dark denim skinny jeans tucked in gunmetal grey boots with a white T and a short Members Only style black jacket.  On his head he sported large headphones.  He was “rockin’ the cans” as Kathy Griffin would say, walking to the beat of his own internal world as he headed downtown.  Like the boy on 14th Street in the lavender leather? jacket, this guy too was assuredly a hot mess.

Thursday 29 April 2010…Total:  2

Schreck Max Shreck as Nosferatu:  Hot Monster or Hot Mess?

Of the 2 hot monster sightings today only one was truly noteworthy.  He was a cute, athletic guy with a blond suedehead wearing Adidas Superstars in black and white- sneakers which are always sexy and nostalgic.  I also noticed that he had a great hairline at the neck which sometimes is all that is needed.


In conclusion dear readers you might conduct your own 12 day Hot Monster Experiment in your hometown.  Send me the results and we can compare and contrast them with my London and New York City findings.  Perhaps soon an entire Hot Monster Map of the World will emerge, telling you and me where the Hot Monsters haunt the landscape.